Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Deer Processing

*****Warning: The following post shows pictures of a deer carcass. Please do not read this post if that will bother you.*******

Every year a friend gets a deer for us. This year we waited until the last minute so I asked around to some of the farmers I know, and luckily one was able to get a deer for us with just a few days left of the hunting season. We prefer deer meat to beef simply because beef is so expensive. Deer is also a great source of local meat, although David calls deer "speed beef" since there's so much corn grown around here some of the deer are practically corn-fed. :-) We usually pay to have the deer processed, which costs around $60-$70 depending on how you want it cut. This year we decided to process the deer ourselves since it would save money. We had to buy a grinder, but that was a one-time fee and that meant all the deer meat would be free after purchasing the grinder.

I brought the deer home in my car (wagons are great) and we hung it in the garage. It was a nice sized doe. I have helped a few former coworkers process deer, and David grew up helping his uncle process them, so we were fairly sure we could do a decent job, even though it had been a while since either of us had done it.

We skinned it, pulled the fat off, and then started removing the meat. We were very careful with the tenderloins (or "backstraps") since they're the best part of the whole deer. The rest we weren't too picky with, we were just trying to get the meat off since it was a school night and we didn't have a ton of time. The kids helped out, Devin by holding bags and Kylee by jumping in and pulling off meat with us.

We really got a lot of meat off, and it's surprising how small the carcass looks afterwards.

We bought the $30 grinder from Tractor Supply, which surprise, wasn't the greatest quality. We ground for an hour or two and then the grinder broke.

We did manage to get about 10 lbs ground before that. We also had several pounds of tenderloin (we like it in medallions), and I sliced a few packages into "minute steaks" (think Steak-Ums) for sandwiches. After the grinder broke we just stuck the rest of the cut up meat into bags and froze them. They'll be saved for stew meat, ground later if we get a better grinder, or canned.

The picture above is just a sampling of what we got. All in all it was pretty easy, though we'll definitely get a better grinder before we do another one! It's satisfying to know we've got meat in our freezer and it didn't cost us anything besides a grinder. Next year's venison will be free!

Friday, January 27, 2012

New in the Shop

I just listed a few felted bird nests the other day. The eggs come in several colors. Check them out here.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

MLK Weekend #3!

Two weekends ago my sister and I went to our Aunt Linda's house for the 3rd annual Must Love Knitting weekend! We all get together and eat, knit, eat, talk, eat, knit more, etc. It's a good time!

We spent lots of time knitting, as I said above. Becky showed us how to knit socks using her toe knitting technique. I had a temper tantrum moment of frustration with learning something new. Hopefully I can remember what she taught us, since David has now agreed to "let" me knit him socks.

We visited a few great yarn shops! Aunt Linda is helping me decide what to make with the gorgeous yarn that jumped into my basket.

We visited my Grandma. It was great to see her, and even though she may not exactly remember our names, she knew she recognized us. She also does and says some of the same funny things I remembered.

Here's Becky with Grandma.

Becky knitting. I tell ya. These captions just get more and more exciting!

And Becky has a nice camera that has a mode that will soften your complexion. I must get this! We experimented with it. See how pretty we are?!

Ok, but really, look at the difference!

If you want to catch up on our previous MLK weekends, visit here and here.

To read Becky's blog post about MLK III, click here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Victory Garden of Tomorrow

A friend sent me the link to the site, The Victory Garden of Tomorrow. They make posters, t-shirts, note cards, and other cool things. They're promoting modern homesteading by creating posters reminiscent of historical posters used to promote the same things, like victory gardening.

They've also got an Etsy shop.

I love their work and I would love that "Eat Real Food" poster in my kitchen! Or maybe the chicken hugger! Or maybe the pickle jar or...I could go on and on!

*pictures from thevictorygardenoftomorrow.com

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Selective Free-Ranging

My mom recently gave me some funding to use on my "farm" so I could get things done or buy things I need. One thing I desperately needed to do was re-do the chicken yard fence. When we first built our fences, we just used field fence (large holes) to fence around the pasture and chicken yard. I didn't think it would be a big deal that the chickens could squeeze through the holes. Boy, was I wrong! They have pooped on everything, scratched the mulch away from the gardens and flowerbeds, eaten all of my tomatoes, and gotten out in/near the road. They needed to be contained!

I bought 2"X4" mesh so I could have the option of fencing them in their yard during the day, and possibly letting them out in the evenings. If they're let out in the evenings, they don't range quite so far from the coop.

I started out by ripping out the old fence.

I expanded their yard since they'd be spending the majority of their time there.

I used my new tripod and camera to take this picture. I'll blog about those later.

Here's how the new pen looks. It will be SO much better once it's done.

Here's the other side of the pen. Wouldn't you know it, I ran out of fence with about 20' left to fence. I think I have enough chain link laying around to fence it, but I'm not sure it it'll be tall enough.

I did most of the work by myself. It's almost impossible to stretch the fence AND connect it to the posts, so David helped me with that part. I did all of the ripping out and putting in the new posts (which was easy because the ground was soft). It's nice to be able to do things by myself. It makes me feel useful and able! And I have to say, it was nice to be able to fence in January....in 60* weather!!

And thanks, Mom, for funding this project!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

For Birds and Bird Lovers

I made a few suet wreaths for Christmas gifts and forgot to blog about it. There are a few other gifts I need to blog about too, so I'll try to work those in soon.

I saw a Martha Stewart episode where she made wreaths out of birdseed and suet, and I thought my mom would like one, since she feeds the birds and really enjoys watching them.

It was fairly simple to make. I just heated up lard (you can find it in Walmart's cooking oils section), but you could also render your own lard or beef suet. Then it's mixed with birdseed. You can also mix in cranberries and peanuts like Martha suggests.

Then the mixture gets poured into a bundt pan. Mine was much larger than the one recommended. It needs to be frozen for about 24 hours to harden, then you can hang it outside with a wide ribbon. It needs to be freezing cold outside, or else the wreath will come apart, like I found out.

If it breaks, it can be sat on a table or platform feeder for the birds. I'm sure they won't mind if it's hanging or on a surface! It's easy to make and pretty to look at!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

German Pancakes

I love breakfast foods. Love them. One of my favorite things to eat is French toast. Yum. I was looking for something new to try, and came upon a recipe for German pancakes. I thought they looked interesting, so I gave it a try and I have to say they're great! It's sort of a cross between French toast and regular pancakes.

This is a super easy recipe, and after I'd made it once the recipe I had it locked in my brain forever memorized.

It puffs up a good bit while baking, but it'll collapse while it cools. We ate ours with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and some maple syrup.

German Pancake Recipe
Preheat oven to 400* F

1/4 cup butter
1 cup milk
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
2 Tbsp sugar
pinch of salt

1. Place butter in an 8" cast iron skillet and place in the oven to heat pan and melt butter.
2. Combine milk, eggs, and vanilla in bowl and mix well.
3. Add flour, sugar, and salt and mix until smooth.
4. Remove cast iron pan from the oven (it's HOT! Even the handle!) and pour in batter.
5. Bake for ~18 minutes until browned and puffy.

Then you can wait for it to collapse/cool a tad and serve with syrup, powdered sugar, etc.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Girl and Her Pony

Santa brought Kylee a pony for Christmas. I think he knew we didn't have the money time space for a real one, so he brought her a pony tire swing instead.

I don't think Kylee minds it's not real, because she loves this thing!

She spent hours on it this weekend...swinging, spinning, just sitting.

She even named it and gave it a bath!

And she's even nice enough to let her brother ride it.

Good work, Santa!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Munch Munch

June is due to kid on Feb. 14th. She's getting pretty wide! I can't wait to see what she has. I bred her earlier than normal, and since we got a cold snap a few days ago I'm wondering why I decided to do that! I'm not sure if I'd rather milk in the freezing cold or in the hot, humid summer. I'm thinking I'd rather deal with the cold. I don't deal with heat well.

I love how they all dig in and then look at me with mouthfuls of hay. Barley is the lamb looking at me head on. I love her.

And of course Ida can't stand like a normal animal and eat, she's got to make it entertaining. :-)

Once again Ida is up, because you know the best tasting hay is on the top!

I'm currently feeding a round bale since my hay people were out of small squares. It's been working pretty well so far, and I think now we have a method for unloading the bale. It's much easier feeding it out when it's standing up, since it just unrolls.

And it's cheaper than small square bales, which is a huge bonus!

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Kylee needed a new hat, so I found this really cute owl hat on Ravelry. It's a really quick and easy knit, and I love the way it turned out! I put button eyes on one of the owls, and left the others plain. I may make the eyes bigger, but I'm not sure yet.

This is the actual color of the yarn. It's Cascade Yarns 220 Quatro in pink.

Now I may make myself one, but probably in a different color. ;-)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rabbit Boys

Here are a few pictures of the rabbit boys. None of the rabbits are named, I just call them all Bun-Bun. Maybe one day I'll think up some names. This first guy is my mini-rex. He's really friendly, and loves when I let him out to explore the garage.

He loved running around Tucker.

He's usually pretty good, and will let me catch him pretty easily. I can't decide whether I want to keep him or not. He's very friendly, but he doesn't really fit into my breeding plans.

And here's the big boy, the American Chinchilla/Silver Fox cross. This big boy used to really intimidate me, because he'll growl and jump at me, but now I know to stand up to him, and I've even given him a tap on the nose to get him to straighten up. We kind of have an understanding now.

I think this big boy will make a nice breeder with my new girls, once they're old enough. I can't wait to see what the rabbits will look like.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The New Girls

Some of you may know I've been wanting to raise meat rabbits for a while now. I spent lots of time debating it, planning it, thinking about it. I got a rabbit in June, and she turned out to be a he. Then I got another rabbit in September and she also turned out to be a male! Turns out after strike 2, it becomes your goal in life to be able to successfully tell a male rabbit from a female rabbit.

So, I searched Craigslist and asked around at the feedstore. Rabbits were in the back of my mind, and every day when I fed the two bucks I was reminded how I was really supposed to have female rabbits, because males don't tend to spontaneously reproduce.

I had been having trouble finding meat rabbits in the area, and the few I did find were too pricey for me. I didn't want to spend too much since I was just starting out. Since I knew we were heading down to NC after Christmas to visit Becky and Mom, I searched on the Craigslist in their area. And what luck! I found a listing for 6 week old baby New Zealand rabbits. I sent an email and left a voicemail explaining that I lived in Maryland and could they please save one female (and make sure it was a female) for me and I would come get it after Christmas pretty pretty please??? Well, the man I spoke with sounded very nice and he told me he would save me a rabbit. I didn't want to get my hopes up, because I know there are so many people who use Craigslist that say they'll show up but never do, or they'll send you an email and try to scam you, etc. I was so worried someone would want to buy all the rabbits, and honestly I wouldn't have blamed him if he'd sold them all if someone was there with cash in hand. But, lucky me, he still had a few rabbits left by the time we made it down to NC!

Becky, David, and I loaded up on Friday morning and headed a half hour up the road to get the rabbit (at that point I was thinking I was just going to get one). We got to this house and were greeted by the nicest couple. They'd gotten rabbits as a project for their teenage son, but the whole family soon got involved. They had the nicest hutches, and the rabbits were so well cared for. The rabbits were all very friendly, and that is a big plus for me! So, after chatting with them for a while, I decided to get 2 rabbits. After all, it was hard for me to find such nice rabbits here in Maryland, and I didn't want to get home and regret only getting one. I even got a lesson in rabbit sexing from the breeder, and it was a huge relief to know I wasn't getting more males. :-)

So now the rabbits are home, after spending a few days in my sister's shower, and then taking an 8 hour car trip up north.

They're in the barn in my chick pen until I can get a nice hutch built for them. Hopefully they'll be content to stay in the pen for a while.

They're really cute, and I can just barely tell them apart since one is slightly bigger.

They're really friendly. I sat with them for a while today and they came up and were very curious about me.

Finally I got my rabbits! I'll breed them to my big buck later this summer when they're old enough. Tomorrow I'll do an update on my other two rabbits.

Monday, January 2, 2012

More Christmas-Family

Here are some more random pictures from the past week. Some are from Christmas at our house, and some are from NC (we just got back from a great but too-short visit).

Devin got a Red Ryder bb gun for Christmas! Target shooting is a tradition on holidays, so the guys took their guns out for some practice. David got a new Ruger pellet rifle, so he practiced with his while Devin shot his bb gun.

They had such a great father-son bonding time!

I made sure Kylee shot the bb gun too. Girls can shoot just as well as boys, ya know! ;-)

Then we all shot some more on the 26th when my Dad and Lisa came for a visit. Unfortunately I didn't get pictures of Lisa or me shooting, so you'll just have to imagine us shooting. Dad is shooting the 20-gauge (shotgun) in this pic below.

Santa brought Devin the new Connect 4 game, where you have to fling the plastic discs onto the tray. I love this game! If you look closely you can see the 2 yellow discs Devin shot.

Then we went to NC. Unfortunately I didn't take very many pictures. It's hard for me to remember to take pics because I'm so busy just enjoying visiting! We went to Lexington BBQ and Evan and David thumb wrestled a few times.

Then we spent some time at Nana's house. Becky spotted this great photo op for Evan and Charlotte, so I snapped it with my camera.

David's parents (and brother and his girlfriend, not pictured) came over on Christmas evening, and I managed to get everyone to agree to take a family picture. I'm glad I did because I love the way it came out! Please note, Kylee is in the stage where she doesn't want to smile nicely. She'd rather make funny faces. I remember being the same way....

I may have a few more pictures from Christmas. I'll have to sort through all of them. I'm going to try to post every day until I get caught up with things. Wish me luck!
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